I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on professionalism for quite a while, however when I have mentioned it to friends they have just laughed at me. I haven’t taken offence, I find it amusing, it has made me look at myself and think maybe they have a point……I’ve never been the most professional person, I struggle with the whole let’s all be nice and not say what we really think. I am a black and white person. Call it as I see it, generally getting raised eyebrows and gasps of air as if people have said ‘I can’t believe he just said that’. So it has got me thinking about ‘being professional’, and what that means now that I’m a ‘Professional Cyclist’. I don’t feel like a pro cyclist, I don’t look in the mirror and see Ed Clancy looking back at me (it’s fair to say we look similar, point taken) I’m still just Steve, wondering how this all happened.
So what is being professional? The people that spring to my mind are the likes of David Beckham, Sir Chris Hoy and the late Sir Ed Hillary. You may not like any of these guys, maybe you do, however I think that they are super professional and when you are in the public eye all the time, that’s not always easy to do.
It annoys me that when professionals do slip up occasionally, the media are all over them like a bad rash, and people buy magazines with this rubbish in them to make them feel better about themselves, that’s bizarre behaviour – we are all human!
I think that what makes us ‘professional’ is not in how well we smile when we win, or how gracious our words are about those who we have just defeated. It’s easy to smile when the going is good and things are working out how you expected them to, but it’s really how we take the losses, the hammerings, when things didn’t pan out how we spent hours visualising they would, training for them, dreaming how it was going to be. These to me are the key to top shelf professionalism, falling at the last hurdle and still holding your head up and saying today wasn’t your day, I was beaten by someone better, someone who worked harder, someone who got the better of me, today.
Behind all of that stuff are the small bits and pieces, that attention to detail, every champion will have this dialled. Making sure things are right, doing everything they can to give themselves the best chance at trying to achieve whatever the goal may be, a hard training interval, weighing out the amount of food instead of guessing, getting enough sleep every night. Professionals are the ones who when all their friends go out drinking, they stay in and go to bed at 10. It’s the details that make up the second shelf of professionalism and this is where I find myself at the moment, trying to understand the details, search them out and perfect them. Thankfully I don’t need to worry about interviews and TV appearances.
There are times that I can’t be bothered to train my tired body, use the foam roller, stretch, or do that hard strength and conditioning session, wash my bike in the rain after a ride. But, I do. I have to. I know I don’t really have a choice, well I do, but these are my details, these are my small things that need to be in place so that everything else fits into place. I know that with all of the small things taken care of, the big things are that much easier to achieve. I guess it’s like studying for an exam and then sitting it and getting the result you’ve earned. I’m one of those people who believe we make our own luck in life, things happen for a reason both positive and negative. It’s that old saying “the more I practice, the luckier I get!”
Professionalism goes far beyond what we see on the TV or how we conduct ourselves in interviews. I have a lot to learn about being a professional athlete, and so far it has been very interesting. I’m learning the ins and outs of the best recovery methods, best way to hydrate and best practise in sleeping behaviours. It’s fascinating, well for me it is because this is now my life. But I’m sure we all could look at ourselves in the mirror and search out the Ed Clancys, Wiggos or Beckhams within us. Those small details that are going to make us better. Better husbands, better wives, better friends and better work colleges.